Piñita Physical Object
Creation Datecirca 1600
DescriptionCast silver. Tapering conical form, cast around the sides with chevrons and lozenge waffle work above a banded script reserve, central hole.
8.8 x 5.2 x 3.0 cm
Possible previous height 11.4 cm.
Exhibition LabelCase Caption:
SCIENCE OF SILVER
The Inca used barter instead of money and exacted taxes in the form of required periods of labor, known as the mita. In 1571, silver production was revolutionized by the introduction of amalgamation, a process by which crushed silver ore was mixed with mercury and then separated. This increased the efficiency of the mines by 500%.
Immediately, the Spanish needed more workers to complete the processing. They revived the mita, compelling Indigenous laborers to work in the mines. At Potosí, roughly 14,000 Indigenous men were required annually. An additional 3,500 men were sent to mine mercury at Huancavelica.
Both mining and amalgamation were extremely dangerous. Countless workers perished until this system ended in 1821.
Gifts of Rose Chibbaro, Jamestown, Inc., Don Kincaid, Museum Acquisition Fund 1982.001.0001, 1986.008.0138, 1986.008.0140, 1986.008.0151, 1986.008.0608, 1986.008.0730,
1986.008.08780880, 1986.013.0004, 1987.013.0008
The purpose of these silver cones is not absolutely certain. They are made of very low-grade silver and the most likely explanation is that they were inexpensive souvenirs of the silver mines, made from run off from the purification process.